Sunday, 16 March 2014

Sister Maria-Matilda of the Crucifixion, O.SS.R. of the Monastery of Ried (1874 – 1897)

Sister Maria-Matilda was born on 10th October 1874 at Lebersham, in the parish of Schwannenstadt in Austria. At an early age she gave the signs of a great piety. Her greatest joy was to erect little chapels in honour of the Blessed Virgin, light candles there and pray there devoutly. Her excellent character made her loved by everybody.

Her three sisters entered the Congregation of the Sisters of the Cross, devoted to the care of the sick. She would also have liked to consecrate herself entirely to God, but her parents did not consent at all and entrusted the direction of the paternal home to her. She submitted, but prayed so well to Him who has the hearts of mankind in His hands, that she obtained the object of her desires. Nonetheless, she was required to fix her choice on the Order of the Sisters of the Cross. More attracted to the contemplative life, the young lady refused. For an entire year, they tried to make her enter as per their original plan, and her Sisters did not spare her, but her fierce resistance disconcerted their efforts. A short time afterwards, her father recognized the holy will of God and sacrificed his cherished child, and she joyously took her flight and entered the convent of Ried on 29th September 1894. “Now,” she cried, “I am happy. I have chosen the better part!” From then on, this was the habitual refrain of her life.

After the most fervent of postulancies, Elise received the holy habit, and with it, the name of Sister Maria-Matilda of the Crucifixion. Yet this only caused an increase in her love for Jesus crucified, to whom she had already given her whole heart. The abundant fullness of her soul overflowed willingly in ardent acts, and her tears often betrayed the affections that filled it, especially at the holy table and on the Way of the Cross. Her fellow Sisters often told the Mistress of Novices: “Our Elise is consumed with love, and will not live for very long.” But what does time matter? “You need less time than will power to become a saint” they rightly said.

On 19th October 1896, Sister Maria-Matilda was joined by her holy vows to the Spouse of souls. From then on, she became more and more attached to the practice of that sincere mortification which is the royal road of prayer. Ingenious in tormenting herself, and even more ingenious in obeying, she showed that the love of Jesus crucified had truly penetrated her heart, and that, in the example of her Saviour, she was seeking for nothing else than the will of God. She became unwell, was dispensed from all her work and installed in the infirmary. However, one day the Mistress of Novices said to her: “Sister Maria-Matilda, go and wash the dishes today. The Sisters are so few in number!” Without saying a single word, Sister Maria-Matilda made her way to the door, took some holy water and appeared in the kitchen. But the Infirmarian in her turn then came running: “My Sister,” she said, “this is not necessary. Another Sister will come and do the work. Return to the infirmary.” And the good Sister returned that instant.

The will of God was soon declared in a more precise manner. It was the cross in all its rigour, that is to say, the sacrifice of her life that the Lord was about to impose on His servant. Throughout the whole duration of her illness, Sister Maria-Matilda had only these words on her lips: “The will of God!” Confined to her chair, she communicated every day in Viaticum and heard the Holy Mass every day. At the beginning of February 1897, she received Extreme Unction. “May I die now?” she asked. And the Infirmarian replied: “Yes, you may.”

This reply filled Sister Maria-Matilda with joy. The pneumonia that was consuming her had reached its last stage. In the night of 10th to 11th February, the invalid suddenly lifted up her head as if to listen to some words that she could hear, and then she fainted. They then recited the prayers of the agonising. The invalid came back to herself and smiled as is she had come back from another world. Her eyes were shining with joy and then seemed to fix on a marvellous spectacle, and when her Superior asked her if she could see her beloved Saviour, and her tender Mother Mary, and Saint Alphonsus her glorious Patron, she nodded her head at each one of these blessed names. Then she looked one last time at her Mistress of Novices and if to say one last “thank you”, and rendered her beautiful soul to God.

This necrology is translated from Fleurs de l'Institut des Rédemptoristines by Mr John R. Bradbury. The copyright of this translation is the property of the Redemptoristine Nuns of Maitland, Australia. The integral version of the translated book will be posted here as the necrologies appear.

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